Lot 40: Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat - Thousands of Marginalia - Full Hitherto Unprinted Composition in the Handwriting of Kabbalist Rabbi Naftali Katz, Author of Semichat Chachamim
November 15, 2016
Jerusalem, IsraelLive Auction
Description: Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat, in a small volume, "Lifne Zekenim im Ne'arim", with short commentary. [Venice, 1593? / 1598?]. Approximately 2000 long handwritten marginalia by two writers: About 1500 glosses identified as written by Rabbi Naftali Katz, author of Semichat Chachamim, and another 500 glosses by a different writer from a later time [mid-18th century], containing scholarly novellae and additions to the initial glosses of Rabbi Naftali Katz discussing their content or continuing Rabbi Katz's train of thought. The glosses of the first writer have been identified by experts as handwritten by R. Naftali Katz, see enclosed authorization. The script is very similar to his handwriting in the famous letter he wrote to his wife at the time he sat in prison in Frankfurt am Main. The glosses by R. Naftali Katz are a complete composition, like a Ba'er Hetev book, with footnotes. The content of the glosses is summaries of the words of the Shach or the Sma and other poskim, with his rulings and many of his additions. 15 years ago, a section of a similar composition written by R. Naftali Katz on the Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim was discovered, in which he refers to his work Kedusha V'Beracha [Published in the Yeshurun anthology, Vol. 11, Elul 2002 pp. 105-110]. The style and form of the composition published in Yeshurun are identical to the style and form of the composition offered here [after comparing the composition published in Yeshurun to the handwriting of R. Naftali Katz in his aforementioned letter, it seems that the composition printed in Yeshurun was written by a copier, whereas the composition offered here is an original composition in his own handwriting]. This is an important composition on the Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat which has not yet been printed, in the handwriting of the illustrious kabbalist R. Naftali Katz (1650-1719), Rabbi of Frankfurt am Main, author of Semichat Chachamim. We have not yet identified the second writer. The glosses are in Ashkenazi script characteristic to the mid-18th century, and they were written throughout many years at various times from ca. 1750-1770 [the writer mentions the book Kreiti U'Pleiti printed in 1763]. On page 141/a, he refers to that which is written in "my composition Kos Yeshu'ot L'Rambam, Chapter 10 of Hilchot Eshut page 17/a" - apparently referring to a work by the writer which had not been printed [we have not found any work written on the Rambam with this name]. Cited in the glosses are books printed in the 17th century, such as Beit Shmuel on Even HaEzer (printed in 1689),R. Naftali Katz, Rabbi of Ostroh, Posen and Frankfurt am Main was born in 1650 to R. Yitzchak Katz Rabbi of Stopin and Lublin, son of R. Naftali Katz Rabbi of Lublin, son of R. Yitzchak Katz, son-in-law of the Maharal of Prague [in a gloss on page 11/b, he cites his grandfather, the Maharal of Prague in his book Gur Aryeh, see footnote no. 1, on the prohibition to adjudicate before non-Jewish courts of law]. Already in his youth, he was known for his holiness and exceptional diligence and his fame spread throughout Ashkenazi countries and Poland. Due to his persistent study, he mastered the entire Talmud and was able to recite it by heart. Immediately after his marriage with the daughter of R. Shmuel Shmelke Rabbi of Ostroh, he was appointed head of the Ostroh Yeshiva. At the age of 30, R. Naftali Katz was appointed Rabbi of Ostroh and the Ukraine region which formerly boasted foremost rabbis such as the Maharsha in its rabbinate. In 1689, he was appointed Rabbi of Posen succeeding Rabbi Yeshaya Horwitz grandson of the Shla (Posen was a central important city; the Shla HaKadosh, author of the Levushim and his grandfather the Maharal of Prague both served in its rabbinate). At the same time, at the age of 40, he was appointed head of the Va'ad Arba Aratzot, the supreme Torah authority in all Ashkenazi countries and Poland. In a gloss on page 7/a he determines that the Jewish community of Eger is in the legal jurisdiction of Pihem (Bohemia) and not of Ashkenaz. This ruling proves that the writer ruled on community matters, decisions which are the responsibility of the heads of Va'ad Arba Artzot. In 1704, he was appointed Rabbi of Frankfurt am Main (during the days of the Maharshashach, grandfather of the Chatam Sofer), a position he held for 16 years until the great fire in 1711. After the fire he was forced to flee the city due to a libel that the fire broke out because of his dealings in hashba'ot and writing amulets. After some time, he headed for Eretz Israel, but upon reaching Constantinople he became ill and died on the 24th of Tevet 1719. He was among the most renowned kabbalists in Ashkenazi countries. The Ba'al Shem Tov highly praised him and his great powers in writing amulets. (People tell that after the Ba'al Shem Tov arrived in Constantinople on his way to Eretz Israel, R. Naftali Katz appeared to him in a dream and revealed to him that he will not merit coming to Eretz Israel just like he himself did not merit coming to Eretz Israel and died in Constantinople. Therefore, the Ba'al Shem Tov turned back to his city of Medzhibozh. After many years, the disciples of the Magid of Mezhyrich went to pray at the grave of R. Naftali Katz on their way to Eretz Israel and at that time he appeared to the R. of Liadi Ba'al HaTanya and instructed him to return to his country and only Rebbe Mendeli of Vitsyebsk continued with his group to Eretz Israel). He was called by the title of his book Semichat Chachamim on Tractate Berachot of which Part 1 begins with a kabbalistic introduction and Part 2 titled Kedusha U'Beracha contains novellae on Tractate Berachot. He composed kabalistic poems, entreaties and prayers and would recite them at night arising to lament the exile of G-d's presence. Some were printed in the book Beit Rachel. His awesome testament was printed in dozens of editions titled "Testament of Rabbi Naftali Katz". At the time of his death in Constantinople, awe-inspiring things took place and all the people saw his wondrous powers and his great holiness. According to a story told of that event, cited in the book Sha'ar Naftali U'Refu'at HaNefesh (and in other books), many Jews who resided in his city passed before him and he told each person from which soul he had been reincarnated. He left behind generations of tsaddikim and Torah scholars. His son-in-law R. Moshe Rokeach, son of R. Elazar Rokeach, author of Arba'a Turei Even was an ancestor of Rebbe Sar Shalom of Belz, progenitor of the Belz dynasty. Copy lacking title page and last leaves: 2-239 leaves (instead of 242,  leaves). 18 cm. Good-fair condition, wear damages, detached leaves and binding. Enclosed is an expert's report identifying the handwriting of the glosses as belonging to Rabbi Naftali Katz, author of Semichat Chachamim.